UK Education: A Summary


I compiled this material for another purpose, but I might as well post it here. Much, but not all, of the material has appeared in other posts on this blog, but presenting it together as a single unified picture of education in the UK is enlightening (I hope).

Boys Failing in Schools / The Bias of Teachers and Pedagogy

Primary Schooling: Boys are trailing girls in reading and writing, though comparable or better in maths, as measured by SATS Key Stage 2. The data here shows,



There is evidence that teacher assessments at SATS KS2 level show bias in favour of girls. However, there is little doubt that at this stage boys genuinely lag girls significantly in reading and writing. The concern is that this disadvantage in literacy causes an ongoing disadvantage throughout secondary schooling.

Whilst there might be an innate difference between the sexes in literacy, at least at this age, there is also evidence that the prevailing attainment gap is exacerbated, if not caused entirely, by school regimes which favour girls’ temperament and behaviour over that of boys. Academic evidence from the USA in support of this contention includes C.M.Cornwell, D.B.Mustard and J.Van Parys, “Non-Cognitive Skills and the Gender Disparities in Test Scores and Teacher Assessments: Evidence from Primary School”, IZA Discussion Paper No. 5973, September 2011. In the UK, a graphic illustration of the reality of this perspective was provided by Gareth Malone’s 2010 experiment. In this series of three one-hour programmes on BBC TV, Gareth Malone accepted the challenge of improving the reading ability of the 10 year old boys at a fairly typical primary school – where many boys were two years behind the girls in reading age. Despite not being a teacher himself (though a brilliant motivator), Malone succeeded in meeting the stiff targets set by the Head Teacher. He did so by adopting a boy-centred approach and teaching the boys separately from the girls. Despite having so emphatically demonstrated how boys’ primary education may be improved, our society has failed to emulate this good example.

Boys as young as 7 already expect to do less well at school than girls, so say Bonnie Hartley and Robbie Sutton (Child Development, Volume 84, Issue 5,  pages 1716–1733). At this tender age, girls think that girls are cleverer than boys – and boys agree with them. Moreover, this attitude appears to emanate, not just from schools, but from society more generally. Boys feel they are not expected by their parents or teachers to do as well as girls. They loose their motivation and confidence as a result. Low expectations breed low achievement, a phenomenon which feminists are keen to emphasise when females are under-represented.

Bluntly put, “boys are not politically correct“, says Christina Hoff Sommers in a video  introducing her book The War Against Boys (2000). In this video, Hoff Sommers observes that boyish behaviour is being increasingly interpreted as pathological – in schools as elsewhere – and that this is a major cause of their educational failure. She warns against people who present themselves as saviours of boys if their approach is to demonise their boyish nature. Masculinity is not toxic but we are told that it is – and increasingly many teachers think so. It is hardly surprising that many boys do badly in a system which essentially just doesn’t like them.

Secondary Schooling: Age 16

At age 16 years, boys again do substantially worse than girls. In the UK the conventional measure of educational attainment at this age is to achieve five or more GCSE Grades A* to C. The historical comparison between the sexes, from 1962 to 2006, using this measure (or the earlier GCE ‘O Level’ equivalent) is shown below (taken from the Department of Education & Skills’ report, “Gender and Education: the Evidence on Pupils in England”, 2007).


The much discussed poorer performance of boys at age 16 started rather abruptly in 1987/88 – a date which coincides with replacing GCE O Levels with GCSEs. This suggests the gender gap may be a result of the nature of the award rather than a true measure of difference in ability.

In addition, there is now ample evidence that secondary school teachers, like primary school teachers, mark boys down compared to girls, as summarised here. This is particularly concerning for awards like GCSEs, and A levels, which include a substantial course-work element which is marked by the teachers.

More recent data modifies the accepted GCSE standard to include the requirement that the 5 Grades A*-C must include English and Maths, and so is not directly comparable to the earlier data. However, a gender gap of ~10% remained in 2012/13, (65.7% of girls and 55.6% of boys in England reaching the standard). In 2015 the gender gap may have reduced slightly to 8.4%.

However, figures for the genders as a whole disguise the strong socioeconomic dependence of educational attainment. Being poor, white and male is the worst combination. Even the EHRC’s “Is Britain Fairer” report (2015), hardly a model of concern for males, notes that, “The socioeconomic attainment gap was greatest for White boys. In England and Wales, by broad ethnic group, White FSM boys continued to have the lowest educational attainment in their respective countries at age 16 in 2013. In 2012/13, just 28.3% of White FSM boys achieved the GCSE threshold in England, compared with 59.1% of White non-FSM boys. For White FSM and non-FSM girls, the rates were 37.1% and 69.5% respectively“. (FSM = free school meals, an indicator of economic disadvantage).

Perhaps a better measure of attainment than “five passes at Grades A*-C” is achieving the top A/A* Grades. 2012 data show that a larger percentage of girls than boys achieve A/A* Grades in every major subject (except maths, where they are equal). The gender gaps, defined as the female – male difference between the percentages gaining the top grades, are as follows,

Percentages Gaining Five GCSE Grades A*-C By Gender (2012)

Subject Males (% ) Females (%) Gap favouring females (f-m)
Maths 20.3 20.3 0
Biology 44.4 52.1 7.7
Chemistry 46.0 51.8 5.8
Physics 46.8 47.1 0.3
English 11.9 21.5 9.6
Geography 24.2 34.9 10.7
History 26.1 34.9 8.8
French 22.0 29.4 7.4
German 21.4 28.7 7.3
Spanish 27.1 35.1 8.0
All Subjects 20.4 27.4 7.0

The gender gap apparent at GCSE may be the major reason for the subsequent gender gaps at A-level and hence also at university entrance. For example, the 2009 Higher Education Policy Institute report, “Male and Female Participation and Progression in Higher Education”, concluded that, “The difference in achievement at GCSE  has been shown to be sufficient to explain the differences in higher education participation. What is more, there are strong indications that the nature of the GCSE assessment (and the nature of the teaching and curriculum that feed it) is part of the reason for the relatively poor performance of boys“. [The 2009 report is no longer available on the live internet, but a 2010 supplement is].

The poorer performance of boys in literacy persists from primary through secondary education, and this fact may be implicated in boys’ poorer performance in other subjects (because verbal articulacy is important in most subjects). It is of interest, then, to find that the apparent male weakness in literacy has disappeared by the time they are in their twenties, as shown by the results of the Programme for the International Assessment of Adults’ Competencies (PIAAC), shown plotted below in comparison with tests on 15 year olds (PISA). This again suggests that boys’ underperformance in literacy at school may be due more to the schools, or perhaps to society, than to the boys.

X-axis: PIAAC Literacy Proficiency Gap for Adults; Y-axis: PISA Reading Proficiency Gap at Age 15 (Positive Means Boys Are Stronger). Illustrates that male under-performance in literacy at school does not persist into adulthood in the UK

Adult Literacy

Secondary Schooling: Age 18

The reporting of A Level results in the press recently has been very misleading. In 2014 virtually all newspapers had headlines like The Telegraph’s, “A-levels 2014: gender gap between boys and girls closing“. The basis of this claim was the fact that, over all subjects, females had only a 0.5% lead over males in attaining top A/A* grades. But this is a difference between the percentages gaining top grades for each sex. It says nothing about the absolute numbers. On this spurious measure, if just two males took A Levels and both got a top grade, and one million females took A levels with half a million gaining top grades, the males would be doing better! This manner of reporting is another way of disguising the underlying male disadvantage.

In fact, the 2014 data shows that 74,161 more females took A Levels (379,823 males versus 453,984 females), an excess of females over males of 20%. Over all subjects, the excess of females gaining grades A*, A or B was 11%, 27% and 36% respectively. You see how misleading that claim of a “0.5% lead” was?

Perhaps more alarmingly, the percentage of female candidates gaining a top A/A* grade exceeds that for males in 30 out of the 37 subject areas listed, as below.

2014 A Levels: Percentage of Each Sex Gaining A/A* Grades (and Gap)

Subject Male A/A* Female A/A* Gap(F-M)
Art and Design subjects 22.8 29.1 6.3
Biology 26.5 28.3 1.8
Business Studies 13.1 16.6 3.5
Chemistry 32.8 32.4 -0.4
Classical subjects 34.6 37.1 2.5
Communication Studies 12.3 17.8 5.5
Computing 15.7 18.5 2.8
Critical Thinking 11.9 13.8 1.9
Design and Technology 14.9 19.4 4.5
Drama 12 17 5
Economics 29.9 35 5.1
English 18.7 20.4 1.7
French 38.2 37.4 -0.8
General Studies 11 13.8 2.8
Geography 22.3 32.8 10.5
German 42.8 39.1 -3.7
History 22.9 27.4 4.5
ICT 9.2 15.3 6.1
Irish 53.4 58.1 4.7
Law 13.3 19.4 6.1
Mathematics 42.2 41.8 -0.4
Mathematics (Further) 55.8 56.3 0.5
Media / Film / TV Studies 7.4 13 5.6
Music 16.7 20.2 3.5
Performing / Expressive Arts 8.7 16.9 8.2
Physical Education 10.7 21 10.3
Physics 29.5 34.7 5.2
Political Studies 25.7 30.9 5.2
Psychology 10.2 19 8.8
Religious Studies 23.4 25.4 2
Sociology 13 20.1 7.1
Spanish 37.1 34.9 -2.2
Welsh 23 18.7 -4.3
Other modern languages 46.6 55.2 8.6
Other sciences 29.2 29.1 -0.1
All other subjects 14.7 16 1.3
All Subjects 25.7 26.2 0.5

Again there are indications that A Level awards may favour females, for example compared to standard attainment tests. As with Key Stage 2 SATs, there is also evidence that teachers favour girls over boys, marking girls higher than boys given what would be expected based on test scores. Remarkably the very studies which show this will nevertheless emphasise issues such as the smaller number of girls taking STEM subjects, or the (claimed) lack of confidence of girls, whilst down-playing the issue of teacher bias, e.g., in the web page introducing the 2012 PISA report. See here for what this report actually reveals.

Young Men a Decreasing Minority at Universities

In the UK, women have been the majority of undergraduates since the early 1990s. Each year the ratio  of female to male university entrants gets bigger. The excess is now 35% (and 52% if both sexes are from disadvantaged backgrounds).

Analysis of the 2015 university entrance data has been reported here. The salient points are,

  • Men no longer dominate in STEMM (science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine). The number of female STEMM entrants exceeded the number of male entrants by 8%.
  • In all non-STEMM subjects, women students outnumber men now by 45%.
  • There are four-and-a-half times as many women studying psychology as men.
  • In pre-clinical veterinary medicine, women outnumber men four-to-one.
  • Women even outnumber men in Agriculture (1.4 to 1).
  • In law, there are now twice as many female students as male students.
  • In languages and cultural studies there are approaching three times as many women students as men.
  • Surely the most egregious gender disparity is in Teaching & Education, where there are nearly six times as many women as men. We are not permitted to suggest that this might be part of the reason why boys are doing less well at school.
  • The most extreme case is nursing, where there are nearly ten times as many women as men.
  • But even excluding nursing, there are twice as many women as men studying medical and dental sciences. Not all these will relate to becoming doctors. But female medical students have outnumbered male medical students by roughly 50% for four decades.

Responding to these results, the head of UCAS, the university entrance system, called for a “concerted national campaign to attract men into teaching”. She also opined that “boys’ education is being ignored by policy“.

In as far as the educational under-performance of males stems from either society as a whole, or from early schooling, we are already committed to a further 15 years of diminishing male attainment. Since there is currently no political will to address the matter, the falling educational achievement of boys and young men is likely to persist longer still. We trail the USA in this matter by perhaps 10 years or so, and the graphs below indicate that the trend of increasing female dominance in degrees continues even when the excess of degrees awarded to women passes the 50% mark.

The USA Experience (from

USA experience

Concern for Women-in-STEM, No Concern for Men in Anything

You can hardly be unaware of the constant efforts to encourage more women into science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). So great is the number of initiatives and support groups working to this end that it defies attempts to list them all, though a few have been given here. Yet if medicine is added, the number of women studying STEMM subjects exceeds the number of men by 8% (2015 data). Moreover, even if attention is confined to the pure sciences the number of male students is hardly greater than the number of female students (university entrant numbers in 2015 were 21,585 and 20,670 respectively).

Women are massively dominant as university under-graduates in teaching, nursing, law, psychology, veterinary medicine, languages and medicine. 76% of undergraduates are studying subjects dominated by women. But there are no initiatives to encourage more men into these areas. The concern is all one way.

Women dominate in people-related subjects, whilst men dominate in thing-related subjects. Gender balance is more important in the former, because “things” do not care about gender. It follows that the disparity which is the more important to tackle is the lack of men in people-related subjects, particularly teaching, psychology, law,  social work and nursing. But instead the emphasis is entirely on getting more women into thing-related subjects. The reason, of course, is that this is not driven by either fairness or impact on society as a whole, but purely by an entrenched and intransigent gender political bias.

The Disappearing Male Teacher

Data on historic numbers of teachers by gender can be found in the Department of Education & Skills’ report, “Gender and Education: the Evidence on Pupils in England”, 2007, and 2012 data is obtained from “School Workforce in England“.

Disappearing Male Teacher

The feminist lobby, which includes the teaching unions, fails to acknowledge that the disappearing male teacher is a problem. The teaching unions, whilst ostensibly hot on gender and equality issues, actually only recognise “women’s problems”.

The distorted view that the feminist lobby adopt on the issue of the disappearing male teacher is exemplified by a Guardian article which bemoans the discrimination against women evident, in their minds, from the observation that, “the state education sector is 74% female, yet only 65% of head teachers are women”. Any reasonable person would note that men are under-represented as both teachers and head teachers, but the feminist mind cannot ever see things that way. Another example of this phenomenon is found in the National Union of Teachers (NUT) 2001 “Gender and Education: An NUT Policy Statement”,

Employers need to address the gender imbalance in senior school management. At present, women are approximately four times less likely to become heads in primary schools than their male colleagues, and in secondary schools, about three times less

They write that woman are “four times less likely to become heads in primary schools than their male colleagues”. It is intended that the reader should conflate this with the idea that there are four times fewer women head teachers in primary schools. But, in fact, there are twice as many female heads in primary schools as male heads. You see, the NUT is complaining that, in view of the fact the ratio of female to male primary teachers is 8 to 1, it is unfair that there are only twice as many women heads. There should obviously be eight times as many women heads – and then it would be fair! That is the mindset we are dealing with here. And these people claim to be champions of equality.

As of 2012, school teaching assistants are 92% female and other school support staff 82% female.

Even universities are no longer dominated by male staff. In 2013/14 the total UK staff numbers in higher education were 248,165 women and 222,655 men, though this includes non-academic staff. Confining attention to academic staff the numbers were 121,850 women and 147,435 men, so not far off parity. Twice as many women worked part time. The gender difference in favour of men only becomes marked at senior staff levels. The government backed Athena Swan organisation is pushing strongly for parity in those areas where female senior staff are in the minority (but not the reverse, of course). The compliance of university departments with the instruction to increase the number of female staff, especially at senior levels, is being backed by very real threats to withdraw funding. All pretence at meritocracy is being abandoned. The contrast is obnoxious between this and the total lack of action in the context of male undergraduates’ disappearance from a wide range of subjects.

Male Educational Under-Achievement: Why Is Nothing Done?

The naive may wonder why, in view male educational under-achievement being universally acknowledged and undisputed, nothing is done to correct it? The reason is that knowledge of a disadvantage does not, of itself, lead to it being addressed. There must be a lobby group with sufficient clout to make something happen. Whilst the world is overflowing with feminist lobby groups, there are no influential lobby groups for males as a class. Men do not cohere politically as a gender group. So nothing is done. Germaine Greer advises that we should forget equality because “you get what you fight for” and this certainly applies to male disadvantages. Men do not fight to have the disadvantages of their sex group addressed, and hence the disadvantages persist and worsen as women, in contrast, continue to fight tooth and nail for their interests. The MHRM is the attempt to create a lobby group for male interests, but to-date it has been silenced by the dominant feminist lobby and a public image created by negative propaganda.

When male feminist groups attempt to address “the problem with boys” they do so by blaming the boys. Their diagnosis is ‘toxic masculinity’. The problem with boys would disappear if only boys could become girls. Boys are bad. If only they could be made to see this. Such “solutions” merely burden boys with an extra dose of self-loathing on top of educational failure. Simply put, the cause of boys’ educational failure and the reason why it is not addressed are the same: endemic societal sexism.

The Vilification of Male Students

Initially it seems surprising that the feminist lobby feels it necessary to add denigration to the increasingly obvious male disadvantage in education. But a little reflection shows why this becomes essential. As male disadvantage becomes impossible to disguise, motivating preference for females on the basis of their supposed disadvantage starts to lack credibility. It becomes necessary, therefore, to motivate female preference in some other way. Two parallel strategies are then called into play. The first is to deny a platform to anyone seeking to expose the truth about male disadvantage. The second is an implicit claim that males are undeserving, so any disadvantage is of no consequence.

Both strategies are implemented via the same approach: the vilification of young men. Masculinity is toxic and male sexuality essentially dangerous to women. Reinforcing this misandric attitude is the true purpose of consent classes in universities. Gender studies professors use their position and influence to author pseudo-studies purporting to identify a misogynistic “laddish” culture in our universities. Feminists insist there is a “rape culture” on campuses, bolstering the claim with more pseudo-studies, though some have honestly called-out this deceit. (It is worth noting that these male denigration pseudo-studies are often conducted by, or on behalf of, the feminist controlled NUS, intent on demonising its minority members). Young women, and the public at large, are persuaded to believe this calumny against young men. The damselling and white knight responses are triggered and whatever the feminists demand of the university administration they are given. This, together with feminist control of the NUS, ensures that requests for men’s groups in universities will always be rejected. This happened at Staffordshire and Durham in 2015 just as it has happened elsewhere in the UK and at a great many universities in the USA and Canada. External speakers who hold unapproved opinions will be similarly no-platformed and even meet with violent demonstrations attempting to shut down the event by fair means or foul.

The infamous reversal of the decision to hold a debate on International Men’s Day at York University is another example of the suppression of discussion of men’s issues by feminists. (It is worth noting the pernicious effect of the likes of Athena Swan in such cases. The university administration is frightened of upsetting the feminist lobby since this may lead directly to a failure to gain Athena Swan accreditation, with resulting loss of funding). The Safe Space ploy is another deceit whose true purpose is the implication that something is dangerous (to women), thus spuriously justifying that it be banned.

These tactics are now routine and serve the purpose of suppressing the truth, the first line of the feminist strategy. The second line of the strategy is an automatic consequence of the vilification of young men, because vile people are undeserving and their causes are therefore void.

We are at a stage now where a few people, men and women both, understand the situation as described above. However, most people still do not understand and imagine that men are privileged and women oppressed. Most of those who have some limited understanding are frightened to speak out. The shame-weapon is very real and more powerful than a prison sentence.

3 thoughts on “UK Education: A Summary

  1. lynn oliver

    The false belief in genetics has blinded the researchers to the great social, environmental causes of learning and motivation in academics. There is the present very improper view of average stress which sees stress as only occurring from some immediate situation event or work. We need to see how our average stress is made up of many layers of past present future experiences fears preparations for defense needs values of self and others also corrupted by our false genetics models and other mental conflicts which remain with us taking away real mental energy from thinking learning motivation and mental health. So all of us suffer from some amount or layers of maintained unresolved mental work which limits our leftover mental energy for thinking learning and mental health.
    As we can see the problem involving differential treatment and learning is much more complex than school curriculum. We need to stop looking at where boys are in life and behavior and begin see how boys are treated very differently from us as girls from infancy by parents teachers peers and society all to make them tough. This is creating the activity less maturity more learning problems and more fear of authority figures.
    The belief boys should be strong allows for more aggressive treatment from one year of age designed to create layers of anger and fear so they will be prepared to fight and be tough. This is coupled with much less kind stable little verbal interaction and less mental/emotional support knowledge and skills for fear of coddling. It is this aggressive treatment which creates the extra maintained layers of average stress anger and fear. These layers remain in the mind and take away real mental energy from academics so those boys will have to work much harder to receive the same mental reward for work expended. This treatment creates more social/emotional distrust of others parents and teachers. It creates lags in social vocabulary and other communication we as girls are given on a continuous basis. The higher average stress creates more activity not genetics but environmentally created. The higher stress creates higher muscle tension which creates more pressure on pencil and a tighter grip hurting handwriting and causing early fatigue. This creates more failure and hopelessness especially with our false genetic models firmly in place. To make it even tougher for boys is the giving of love and honor feelings of selfworth only on condition of achievement or status. This was designed to keep Male esteem feelings of self-worth low to give their lives in time of war for measures of love and honor from society. Males not achieving are given ridicule and discipline to make them try harder. Support is not given for fear of coddling. Many boys falling behind in school turn their attention to sports and video games to gain measures of love and honor not received in the classroom. The belief boys should be strong and false belief in genetics creates blatant denial of differential treatment which is creating the lower academics and other problems many boys are facing today. There is an emotional cannibalism allowed upon boys and men who appear weak in some way by parents and teachers even from many girls and women.
    As girls we are treated much better and enjoy more care from society. Since we as girls are given more continual positive mental social/emotional support verbal interaction from an early age this creates the opposite outcome for girls. We enjoy much more care and receive love and honor simply for being girls. This creates all of the good things. We enjoy lower average stress for ease of learning. We enjoy much freedom of expression that makes us look unstable at times. We can use that same freedom of expression to give verbal silent abuse and hollow kindness to our Male peers with impunity. We enjoy low muscle tension for handwriting. We enjoy positive communication from parents and teachers. We are reaping a bonanza in the information age. The lower the bracket the more amplified the differential treatment. Now women taking over many areas of society we enjoy even more lavishing of love and honor while men are now given even more ridicule and abuse by society. Mind you this is also now coming from many women using our protected expression and more so with false feelings of superiority. My learning theory will go to all on request.

  2. Pingback: The Empathy Gap | mra-uk

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